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Updated NY Law Requires Gun Applicants Provide Social Media Accounts, Get Safety Training

Some believe mass-shooting investigations would not take place so often if early warning signs were not so easily dismissed. Because of this belief, New York state is implementing a new approach to monitor applicants for gun licenses. Individuals who want to carry concealed handguns will be required to hand over their social media profiles in order for their "character and conduct" to be analyzed. 

Many Democrats and national gun control advocacy organizations support the strategy. Still, many specialists have expressed concern regarding how the law will be mandated and how it will address freedom of expression concerns.

Is The Law Constitutional?

According to the executive director of the New York Sheriffs' Association, Peter Kehoe, sheriffs did not receive extra funding or additional staff to process the new application procedure. Kehoe claimed the law violates Second Amendment rights, and that while candidates must mention their online profiles, he does not believe local officials will properly analyze them. Some local authorities who will be tasked with reviewing social media content are also concerned about funds and, in some cases, the law's constitutionality.

"I don't think we'd do that," said Kehoe. "I believe it would be a constitutional violation."

The new rule, which went into effect in September, was included in a law passed in July seeking to keep firearms restrictions in place after the Supreme Court decided most individuals have the right to carry a firearm for self-defense. Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul signed it, noting shooters occasionally telegraph their intention to cause damage to others. 

Young men, including the shooter who killed 19 children and two teachers at a primary school in Uvalde, Texas, are progressively going on the internet and revealing their intentions. 

What Do Applicants Have To Do?

The law requires applicants to offer a list of their present and previous social media profiles from the last three years to local authorities. It is unclear if candidates will be required to provide access to personal accounts that are inaccessible to the general population.

It will be up to local agents, courts, or county clerks to evaluate accounts and decide if they are appropriate. The law will also force individuals to complete hours of safety training, demonstrate shooting proficiency, offer an additional four character references, and sit for in-person interviews.

What Do Officials Say?

According to Tanya Schardt, senior counsel and board member of state and federal policy for gun law advocacy organization Brady, the law represents how the Supreme Court decision has switched responsibility for vetting those who hold firearms in public to states.

"The question must be, can we do this in an anti-racist manner that does not generate another set of abuse, namely state violence that occurs through monitoring?" said Patton, University of Pennsylvania social policy, communication systems, and medicine professor, who also established SAFElab, a research strategy studying violence among youths of color.

What Do Gun Rights Activists Think?

"You'll also have to inform them about your social media profiles because New York wants to fully investigate you to see if you're one of those risky law-abiding residents who are sweeping the nation and boosting crime, "Jared Yanis, presenter of the Guns & Gadgets YouTube channel, says in a widely viewed video about the new law. "How did we get here?"

Hochul, who has also accused state police of countering online extremism, did not reply instantly to a list of inquiries about the social media necessity, mainly how the state will discuss free speech and privacy issues.

What Does A Criminal Justice Teacher Think?

"A common stumbling block is figuring out how to enforce this” - James Densley, a criminal justice expert and criminal justice teacher at Metro State University and co-founder of the research program The Project Against Violence stated. "I believe it opens a can of worms because no one knows what is happening.”

He admitted it could be challenging to decipher social media posts by younger people, who may simply be articulating themselves by posting a music video. Where this gets tricky is determining how much of this is the expression and how much is evidence of wrongdoing." Densley explained. Facebook, Twitter, 4Chan, and Parler representatives did not immediately respond to requests for information.

What Does Desmond Patton Think?

Desmond Patton is a medicine professor. He believes New York should take into account recruiting trained groups to determine the best way to engage with online individuals who display signs of radicalization or trauma and may require assistance.

"There are numerous nuance and contextual issues." "We speak differently; how we discuss may be misinterpreted," Patton explained. "I'm concerned that we don't have the right people or tools to do this in a way that is beneficial in avoiding violence."

Adam Scott Wandt, a professor of public policy at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said he facilitates gun control, but is concerned the New York law will set a precedent for disclosure requirements of social media activity for people seeking other kinds of state licenses.